Login Get In Touch
Listening to Understand, Not to Respond When Selling Managed Services Blog Feature

presentations solution selling prospecting talk tracks Sales

By: Hannah ODonnell on August 11th, 2020

Listening to Understand, Not to Respond When Selling Managed Services

Ask Questions to Grow Your Managed Services Sales Success

A quick exercise to get us started - think of examples from your own experience of two MSP sales conversations:

  • Conversation went really well – strong positive outcomes.
  • Conversation went poorly – you wish it really went better.

What were the high points in each of these conversations? What were the low points in each of these conversations? Write them down and we will come back to these.

In the words of Xun Kuang, “Tell me and I forget, teach me and I may remember, involve me and I learn.” Hands-on experience is the best way to learn! In fact, 70% of how we grow our careers is through real-life experiences. So how do we create better habits, and implement this into our sales process?

The key is listening to understand, not to respond. Asking questions allows our customers and prospects to coach themselves and makes the idea theirs, not ours.

Ask questions throughout your managed services sales process, even more specifically at these stages:


The qualification process comes after a lead has shown interest through sales and marketing efforts. At this point, we have little information on the prospect’s needs to improve their business, which means we need to learn more to either lose fast or move forward with the right leads. In order to learn more we must ask questions, not sell our solution. We recommend creating a qualification tool that provides questions to identify the quality of a lead before investing too much time or resources, as well as help you with prioritizing your opportunities.

First Appointment

You’ve qualified the prospect based on your target customer profile. Now we need to find out if they are interested in making the investment towards next steps which include our assessment and final proposal.

During the first appointment we need to set the stage for what we are looking to accomplish by guiding the conversation. A simple way to do this is by asking, “Can I ask you a couple specifics about your IT environment and how you work with technology?”

Alex Rogers at Chartec calls this the “magic question,” and if positioned correctly it opens the floor for you to ask more questions, listen, and let the prospect talk. Asking the right questions can help you better understand the customer’s needs, their decision making process, an effective solution, and how you can show value and justify cost.

  • "How are IT issues handled today?"
  • "What is your current response/resolution time?"
  • "Are your IT expenses predictable or all over the map?"
  • "Is this a monthly or hourly fee?"
  • "What are your revenue goals for this year?"

The Assessment

The next stage of the MSP sales process – the assessment – is another crucial point to focus on asking questions. Your potential customer has agreed to invest their employee’s time to meet with you and for your engineer to perform a technical assessment. The customer is yours to win. During the assessment you will hear customers share experiences that you can solve. But remember, this is not the time to solution sell! When you hear these types of openings, ask questions to quantify the impact.

Ask follow-up questions like, “How did that work for you? What else could you consider doing? How did that impact you?”

You can then take this information into your final proposal to reiterate the stories you heard from the prospect, the implications it had on them and their business, followed by the IT solution you recommend to meet their identified needs. This makes your final solution the prospect’s idea, not yours. And this was achieved by listening to understand, not to respond.

Let’s circle back to my original exercise on the following two sales conversations:

  • Conversation went really well – strong positive outcomes.
  • Conversation went poorly – you wish it really went better.

Now ask yourself, in each of these situations, did you do most of the talking or listening? This skill isn’t something that happens overnight; it takes practice. To enhance your question-based selling from start to finish, check out our proven sales process and how we help MSPs increase their close rates and margins.

Collabrance MSP Sales Process